GENERAL TIPS AND INFORMATION
Being in a different countries can be fun, however sometimes there are things from home you just can't do without. Here is a list of some places you may find some things that are not common in Manila to make your stay a little easier. As these products are generally imported or not in huge demand they will probably be more expensive than usual, other times the price will pleasantly surprise you.
In the Philippines buying fresh milk can be challenging. Here they call long life (UHT) milk fresh. They call it fresh as opposed to powdered milk. If you are after true fresh cow’s milk that you are used to there are a few places of where it can be bought.
1. One of the Rustan’s supermarket - see below
2. The supermarket at the Forum Robinson Mall in Mandaluyong and
3. The green grocer called Pelican Fresh, in the outside section of Market Market at Fort Bonafacio (near where the florists are located, on the corner near the taxi rank). Milk costs about P120 per litre.
Fresh Milk can be bought from Pelican Fresh at Market Market
Banks and ATMs are everywhere and most will accept international ATM cards (the only exception seems to be BDO) however the maximum amount you can withdraw in a single transaction is P10,000 and you will be charged P200 to withdraw your money. You may also be charged a fee from you bank back home. If you are after a substantial amount of money, the bank fees can add up fast.
The HSBC bank is the answer as it does not have a limit on the amount of money that can be withdrawn and will not charge you the P200 to use their ATMs if you have an international card. I have expermineted with the HSBC and a normal Philippino bank, and they both gave exactly the same exchange rate as each other. So if you need to withdraw your money, HSBC can save you a few dollars.
They are located on the outside of Rockwell Mall, in Fifth Ave in Fort Bonifacio, The RCBC building in Makati and also a few other branches in Makati near Ayala Triangle. Visit the HSBC website here for more locations.
Rustan's supermarkets offer a wide range of Western type foods. If you need a jar of Vegemite, some Crisps from home, some European beer or even some Steak, A selection of wines and spirits. Rustans will have these and so much more.
Three of the bigger stores are listed below, but visit their website for a comprahensive list of stores and opening times.
1. Basement 1, Central Square, Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig
2. Concourse Level, Power Plant Mall, JP Rizal, Makati City
3. Glorietta Ground Floor, Rustan’s Bldg., Ayala Avenue. Makati City 1229
The Philippines offers 30 day tourist visas on arrival to most countries in the world. If you would like longer than 30 days, you will need to visit the Bureau of Immigration. They can extend your visa in 1 or 2 month blocks. If you need longer than 2 months, you will need to re visit. Check out this in-depth article that explains, step by step, how to extend a tourist visa in the Makati office.
There is no shortage of malls to visit. There will be a security guard checking bags and sometimes frisking people for weapons. Don’t be alarmed and it is all quite routine and a 'frisk' is generally just a tap on the small of the back to see if you are concealing a gun. If you are a westerner they will usually do a summary, token look into your bag, welcome you to the mall and wave you through. The MRT (train) security guards seem to be more thorough and will look in each pocket of your bag to ensure you have no bombs or guns. Walking from the train station in Makati (Ayala) to Greenbelt, can be done without going outside via the malls, but expect to be searched 4 times as you leave on mall and into the next. It is for your own safety as firearms are much more common in the Philippines than some other countries in the world. A tip is to be patient, have your bag ready, opened when you get to the front of the line for inspection.
There are two main phone companies in the Philippines, Smart and Globe. Coverage and price seems to be fairly equal between the two. Pre paid SIM cards can usually be picked up for around P40. They call credit ‘Load’ in the Philippines, so once you have the SIM card in your phone you will need to ‘load’ it up to make calls or use data. There are 2 ways to put credit on your account. Buy pre paid cards usually in denominations of P100, P300 and P500 and follow the instructions on the back and the second way is to give your phone number to a local shop owner and they will transfer the money to your SIM, the second method is usually used for smaller amounts, like P20 and the shop keeper gets about P2 or so. The plan and data you determines the price, so best to check what promos they have and register before using the phone eg/ UNLI20 promo will give you unlimited calls and text to any Globe number valid for one day. You can purchase SIM cards and load at a number of places, but convience shops are quick and easy.
Check out the websites for more information.
The Philippines runs on 220 v - 240 v. and at the Frequecy of 60 Hz. The most common type of plug is the Type A socket. Flat, parrellel plugs. Most hotel reception will have adapters you may borrow or can be bought for about P40 from hardware shops or some supermarkets.
Manila is as safe as the next big city and foreigners are rarely targetted for violent crime. There are a number of scams and people commiting non violent crimes in the city (like any big city) like pickpocketting etc. A few precautions that can be made:
*Carry your wallet in your front pocket or carry a 'decoy' wallet with a few pesos in it
*When you get in a taxi, lock the doors as 'snatch and grabs' of personal items have been known to happen at red lights or when traffic is slow.
*If on public transport, don't allow people to see your smart phone. While smart phones are becoming more popular, they are worth more than 2 months salary to a local. They won't grab it there and then, but may follow you and grab it later.
*Be wary of anyone claiming to remember you or know you from your hotel. Usually it is a scam.
*Keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings and don't get so drunk you lose control , especially if you are by yourself.
There is not a tipping culture in the Philippines, although some vendors will play on it because you are a foreigner. It is perfectly fine to NOT leave a tip as it is not expected, although a small reward for good service is appreciated. Often some of the bars and restaraunts in the areas frequented by foreigners will already have a 10% service charge included in the bill. Sometimes the prices on a menu do not include it, but there is a small asterix somewhere advising you of the charge. So if you tip on top of a service charge, you are essentially double tipping. VAT or Value Added Tax is 12% and be careful as some menus and prices are quoted inclusive and others exclusive of this tax, but again, it will usually mention this somewhere in the fine print.